There are three stories that I stumbled across today that I thought are very relevant given the coming election.
This article illustrates one of the major issues today. We have seen all over the media this number of 665,000 Iraqi civilian casualties. Many of us only read the headline. If the headline agrees with our pre-conceive notions, we remember it, quote it, and treat it as fact. Some of us even read the article to discover that the number comes from John Hopkins University, which most of us believe to be a very reputable source of information. So, that cinches it. It must be true. If the headline does not comply with our view, we dismiss it. “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.” You can’t believe statics. In the article, Steven E. Moore, an experienced Iraq pollster, dissects the Hopkins survey in clear layman’s terms. You might still choose to believe the John Hopkins University survey but you should at least know it’s weaknesses.
We believe that a survey conducted by John Hopkins University must be true despite the fact that the vast majority of us lack the knowledge to determine the accuracy of the information provided. Those that do have knowledge often lack the ability to get their analysis into the public eye to the same level of penetration. Consequently, much of what we use to form our opinions is not fact but unqualified data dressed to convince us that it is believable.
I have long found comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam interesting. To my mind the two are as different as cheese and chalk. I thought maybe I wasn’t remembering my long ago lessons on the Vietnam war correctly so I’ve been reading up on the history of that war. Interestingly enough, there’s more in common with the current conflict that I thought. All of which is for another blog entry. More immediately, President Bush has drawn his own comparison to Vietnam. The reference was the Tet Offensive.
This article points out that the Tet Offensive is, even today, a very misunderstood event in history. Many believe that the Tet Offensive was a military turning point in the Vietnam war. The reality of the event is that the North Vietnamese suffered severe losses and failed to achieve any of their objectives. However, Americans watched one of the fiercest battles of the Tet Offensive play out in their living rooms on the nightly news. Joe Six-pack, sitting in his living room didn’t think what he saw looked like U.S. military superiority in Vietnam. To him, it looked like we were losing. Moreover, it looked brutal, even barbaric. The Tet Offensive was not a military setback for the U.S. It was a psychological win for North Vietnam delivered by the U.S. media. In that light, the month of October might well have been Iraq’s Tet Offensive.
[Added 27Oct] Oliver North agrees and expounds.
And, in the context of the coming election, probably most important of all this article. The war in Iraq is the center piece of most Democratic campaigns and a point that most Republican campaigns are trying desperately to avoid. However, the simply fact is that for all of the complaints about the current policy in Iraq there aren’t any better plans being offered. As the article points out, even if they are elected, there isn’t a lot that they can do differently. The simple fact is that the work left to be done in Iraq is long, dirty (or rather deadly), hard work. And, it is just possible that we are winning the war in Iraq and losing it in America. That, ultimately, was the lesson of Vietnam.
Thanks for enduring the news cruise.